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Alachua County Residents Vent Lingering Irma Frustrations

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Nearly two months after Hurricane Irma first brought flooding to the area, some Alachua County families are still without a place to live.

“We’re just sitting tight to see what’s being decided,” said Weena Nonog, whose Robin Lane home was flooded by water from the September storm. Since then, she said she has been living in an apartment and asking the county for help.

In response to this and other lingering problems after Irma, the county’s engineering team held a meeting Wednesday at Alachua County Public Works.

“I do know there are maintenance improvements that need to be done,” county engineer Ramon Gavarrete said to the group of 15 or so frustrated residents from various neighborhoods.

Many referenced Alachua County’s 2010 Stormwater Master Plan, which identifies “high-risk” areas and possible fixes, and they asked why the plan’s suggested projects were never completed.

The county commission “hasn’t decided to move it along,” Gavarrete said. He said he began working for the county in 2016, six years after the plan was completed.

He promised the displaced families that his team is working on finding short- and long-term solutions.

Gavarrete estimates it will cost $20-$50 million to solve all of the flooding problems countywide, and it could take years to secure that much funding.

“We are going to go after state and federal grants,” Gavarrete said.

Nonog’s mom, Erlinda Collante, said she is struggling to fund her temporary living situation.

It’s hard. I have to pay for an apartment and pay the mortgage,” said the retired doctor, who lived with her daughter and other family members in the Robin Lane home.

Collante expressed her frustrations at the meeting and said the county should buy the home immediately.

Buying Collante’s home — and another on Robin Lane — is one of the solutions the engineering team discussed. The purchases would be part of a broader project in the neighborhood to alleviate flooding at its entrance, stormwater engineer James Link said.

“I have proposed a project of elevating the road [and] constructing a basin on properties that we would acquire to offset the fill from elevating the road,” Link said.

Yet without enough dedicated funding, the engineering team said it is limited in what it can do.

The Alachua County commission is scheduled to discuss the solutions and funding mechanisms at a meeting on Dec. 5.

For now, Nonog and her family are waiting on a FEMA inspector to see if they’re eligible for federal assistance.

“I think we can make it,” Collante said. “The Lord is with us.

About Grace King

Grace is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing grace.king@ufl.edu.

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